R&B legend Chaka Khan has signed on to play Sofia in the Broadway production of The Color Purple beginning January 9, 2008. On the same day, gospel great BeBe Winans will join the company as Sofia's husband, Harpo. American Idol finalist LaKisha Jones is also headed for Broadway: Beginning December 19, she will deliver the show's opening number, "Mysterious Ways," as the Church Singer and will play Sofia at matinees after Khan's arrival.
Four-time Grammy winner Khan released a new album, Funk This, on September 25. In addition to her long and successful recording career, Khan played Sister Carrie in the London production of Mama, I Want to Sing in 1995, an experience she called "a killer" in her autobiography, Chaka! Through the Fire.
Winans' latest recording, Cherch, will be released on October 30. As an actor, he appeared in The Manchurian Candidate. He will serve as a judge on Sunday's Best, a gospel version of American Idol that premieres on the BET network on October 2.
The Color Purple opened at the Broadway Theatre on December 1, 2005, and currently stars American Idol winner Fantasia, who is signed through January 6, 2008, as the heroine Celie. The cast also includes Elisabeth Withers-Mendes as Shug, NaTasha Yvette Williams as Sofia, Darlesia Cercy as Nettie, Alton Fitzgerald White as Mister, Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Harpo, Krisha Marcano as Squeak and Larry Marshall as Ol' Mister. The production is directed by Gary Griffin.